BIAHC spared the ax, given the scalpel

In an abrupt turnabout, the Bainbridge City Council has reinstated the majority of funding to the arts and humanities.

The move comes in response to heavy lobbying efforts by students, artists and organizers who claimed a two-year, $134,000 cut to the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council would severely cripple the organization.

The move came after a plea from BIAHC board President Anne Blair, who warned of a large-scale restructuring of the organization if the proposed cuts were to take place.

“I said I wouldn’t threaten a dramatic outcome,” Blair said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “But starting tomorrow morning the BIAHC staff and board will begin discussions for restructuring, and cutting arts services that are mandated by the city’s comprehensive plan.”

BIAHC is the umbrella organization that distributes city funds to nonprofits such as Ovation!, Bainbridge Music Guild and the Kids Discovery Museum. The cuts would have winnowed BIAHC staff from 3.5 to 1.5 full-time employees, reduced funding to island nonprofits and would have removed annual arts programming.

The U-turn from last week’s decision to keep the cuts in place was brought forward by council member Chris Snow. He had previously voted for the reductions.

“According to procedure, reconsideration can take place to correct a hasty decision,” Snow said before moving that the council review a motion to reinstate funding.

“The numbers that we were presented and we initially approved, in retrospect, were larger than they needed to be and didn’t take into consideration the impact they would have,” Snow said. “The (arts community) has an almost endless appetite for resources, as circumstances change, it’s hard to gauge how much should reasonably be cut back.”

Council action reduces cuts to BIAHC from $40,000 to $23,000 in 2009, and from $94,000 to $23,000 in 2010. The vote in favor of the revised cuts passed 6-1.

“It’s still a cut (and) there will be decisions that need to be made by our board,” said Zon Eastes, the executive director of BIAHC. “I guess we were anticipating the death of the organization.”

Blair didn’t expect all of the BIAHC funding to be reallocated, and said that tough decisions would still have to be made.

“It’s not a surprise, but at least it doesn’t have the desperate feel to it,” she said. “Frankly, what this does is give us more time to figure out how to do it in the most effective way. It’s quite clear things have got to change and they will change.”

Council member Debbie Vancil spoke to the reduction measure, caling it an affirmation of the role BIAHC has in the community.

“The arts are a revenue source for the city,” Vancil said. “The $23,000 (reduction) is an effort to recognize that, and it will allow the organization to survive another day.”

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